List of The Waltons characters

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Main article: The Waltons

The Waltons is an American television series that aired for nine seasons (1972–1981) on CBS. A further six television movies aired in the 1980s and 1990s. Below is a list of the series characters and the actor(s) that portrayed them.

Main characters[edit]

John "John-Boy" Walton Jr.[edit]

John Walton Jr. (Richard Thomas, pilot, seasons 1–5, two guest shots in season 6; and three 1990s movies; Robert Wightman, seasons 8-9, 1982 movies). Known throughout the series as "John-Boy"; born in 1916, son of Olivia Walton (née Daly) and John Walton Sr. John-Boy is based on author Earl Hamner Jr., who narrates the opening and closing of each episode as the present-day, adult John-Boy. The oldest of seven surviving children, aged 17 in season 1, John-Boy is a serious thinker and avid reader with a passion to become a writer. He constantly records his thoughts about his family, friends, and circumstances, and writes stories in a journal/diary. Normally a calm, quiet sort, John-Boy occasionally displays a touch of his father's fiery temper, and can become defensive and indignant when the situation warrants. After becoming the first member of his family to graduate from college, he moves to New York City to fulfill his dream. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlists in the military and writes for the Stars and Stripes.

John Walton Sr.[edit]

Family patriarch John, called Daddy by his children, (pilot, Andrew Duggan; series and sequels, Ralph Waite) is a hard-working, industrious man who runs a small family sawmill on his property on Walton's Mountain. He is the second son of Esther Walton (née Morgan) and Zebulon Tyler Walton. He is the husband of Olivia Walton (née Daly) and father of John "John-Boy" Walton Jr., Jason Walton, Mary Ellen Walton, Erin Esther Walton, Benjamin "Ben" Walton II, James Robert "Jim-Bob" Walton and his stillborn twin brother Joseph Zebulon Walton, and Elizabeth Tyler Walton. He is usually good-natured, wise, and fearless, ready to stand up to a challenge and tell things straight. These personality traits sometimes cause him to be brash, even towards his children and wife on occasion, and when greatly stressed, he is prone to overwork to the point of "workaholism." World War I veteran John will do anything to protect his family; he also wishes to see all of his children graduate from college, which he was unable to do. Despite his Baptist upbringing he, like his father Zeb, is distrustful of organized religion, though he is by no means an atheist. He holds life sacred and honors God as the creator of it. He does not approve of hunting animals for sport, but will hunt to provide food for his family. Despite his rejection of the Baptist church, his wife calls him "the most God-fearing man I know."[1]

We are told in the pilot movie that he dies in the year 1969 (the year in which Earl Hamner's father died).

In 2004, TV Guide ranked him # 3 on its "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time" list.[2]

Ralph Waite passed away in Feb 2014, at the age of 85.

Olivia Walton[edit]

Olivia, also known as Liv or Mama, (pilot, Patricia Neal; series, Michael Learned) is John Walton's soft-spoken, patient, loving wife, who complements his tough-skinned, opinionated nature. She is the sister of Frances Daly of Edgemont. She has seven living children: John Walton Jr., Jason Walton, Mary Ellen Walton, Erin Esther Walton, Benjamin Walton II, James Robert Walton, and Elizabeth Tyler Walton. An eighth child, Jim-Bob's twin brother Joseph Zebulon Walton, died at birth. She is also the aunt of Cousin Olivia and aunt-by-marriage of Bob Hill. She is usually gentle, but firm and unafraid to speak up or administer discipline when needed while taking a firm stand against going into debt. Like mother-in-law Esther Walton, she is a devout Southern Baptist, although her husband doesn't share her commitment to the church. She is willing to open her home to friends or strangers in need, but she is uncomfortable with her family associating with the Baldwin sisters because she strongly disapproves of their unknowing production of homemade liquor (moonshine), which they refer to as "Papa's recipe". She is especially disturbed to learn that John-Boy borrows an antique typewriter from them and that Mary Ellen unknowingly sells it to the traveling junk dealer, as she won't have her family indebted to the Baldwins.

Her background and family are not referenced to the same degree as John's. It is known that she displayed budding artistic talent in high school and considered going to college on a scholarship but instead chose to marry John Walton when she was 16 and settle down as a homemaker. She is content that she made the right choice.

She survives polio in a 2-hour special at the end of the first season, and develops tuberculosis later in the series.

In a 1999 Archive of American Television interview, executive producer Earl Hamner Jr. stated that, when transitioning from the film to the TV series, he chose to recast the role of Olivia because he did not think that Patricia Neal's health would allow her to commit to the grind of a weekly television series. In her 1979 memoir, Neal suggested that she would have accepted the role, had it been offered to her.

Zebulon Tyler Walton[edit]

The Walton family elder, Grandpa Walton (Pilot, Edgar Bergen; seasons 1-6, Will Geer), husband of Esther Walton (née Morgan), and father of Benjamin Walton, who was killed in World War I, John Walton, Sr., and an unknown Walton child. Referred to as "Zeb" to friends, "Zeb" or "old man" by his wife Esther, "Pa" by his son John, "Grandpa" by the rest of the family, and "the Grandfather" in show credits, likes to spend his time working with John in the sawmill, fishing, and playing with and teaching his grandkids. As hardworking as son John, Grandpa is much more easygoing in general and has a mischievous yet wise and vibrant personality. He especially cherishes his wife (and vice versa), although he can often be found alone relaxing with the Baldwin sisters, happily sipping their "recipe" (moonshine). He also tends to distrust his wife's Baptist church,[3] [4] although he has a deep love and respect for God. He served in the Spanish-American War and is an amateur botanist like Will Geer himself. Geer's sudden death during the post-season-6 hiatus is reflected in the report of Grandpa's death from a heart attack at the start of season 7.

In the German dubbed version, the name of Zebulon "Zeb" Walton was changed to Samuel "Sam" Walton. The television network ZDF which first aired The Waltons in Germany was worried that the name "Zeb" could be mistaken with "Sepp" which is a Bavarian short form of the name Joseph and could be seen as being cliché.

Esther Walton[edit]

Grandma (Ellen Corby), practical but feisty and quick-tempered, makes a strong effort to stick to the straight and narrow and get things done. "Grandma" Esther (née Morgan), is the wife of Zebulon Tyler ("Grandpa" Zeb) Walton and the mother of Benjamin "Ben" Walton, Sr. who was killed in World War I; John Walton Sr., husband of Olivia (née Daly); and their unknown sibling. Like her husband, Grandma has plenty of wisdom to share with family and friends, peppered with the occasional "Good Lord!" (when surprised, indignant, or both) or bestowing a cheekily-loving "You old fool!" on her husband. In 1977, actress Ellen Corby's stroke was incorporated into the storyline--Grandma also had a stroke. Corby's missing the 5th season's latter half, and having her role drastically reduced from then on, was explained as Grandma visiting relations in nearby Buckingham County. Corby was able to return for the 6th season's final episode; she returned to being a regular cast member during season 7, though Corby's health forced her to drop to recurring status from season 8 onward, only appearing in a few episodes per season; she appeared in five of the six reunion specials.

Jason Walton[edit]

Jason (Jon Walmsley) was born in 1918, son of John ("Daddy") Walton and Olivia ("Mama", Liv) Walton (née Daly); grandson of Zebulon Tyler ("Grandpa" Zeb) Walton and Esther ("Grandma") Walton (née Morgan); nephew of Benjamin ("Uncle" Ben) Walton II, an unknown aunt or uncle Walton, and Frances Daly who lives in Edgemont; brother of John-Boy Walton, Mary Ellen Walton, Benjamin (Ben) Walton III, Erin Esther Walton, James Robert (Jim-Bob) Walton and his stillborn twin brother Joseph Zebulon Walton, and Elizabeth Tyler Walton, 1st Cousin of Olivia, and cousin-in-law of Bob Hill. Age 15 in season 1, he is a somewhat-introverted but good-natured musician who enjoys composing music for harmonica, guitar, and piano, some of which graced the show. In season 3, Jason attends the Kleinberg Conservatory of Music; in season 4 he lands a job playing honkytonk piano at local tavern The Dew Drop Inn, much to Grandma's and Olivia's chagrin. In season 5, after an internal struggle which led him to consider becoming a conscientious objector, Jason joins the National Guard. By season 9 he joins the Army and meets a Jewish girl, named Toni Hazelton; they marry and have several children, all named after country singers of the time.

Mary Ellen Walton[edit]

Mary Ellen (Judy Norton Taylor) is the oldest of Liv and John's daughters, born in 1920, aged 13 in season 1. Throughout the first few seasons, she is a typically whiny, sometimes rebellious teenager, somewhat of a tomboy who enjoys playing baseball, but could also be vain, engaging in a rivalry with rich-girl Martha-Rose Coverdale for the affections of the awkward G.W. Haines (David Doremus). Mary Ellen matures into a wiser young woman and becomes a nurse.

In season 5, Mary Ellen marries Dr. Curtis Willard (Curt), the town's new physician; in season 6 they welcome their only child, John Curtis Willard. In season 7, Mary Ellen receives a telegram notifying her that Curt has been killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, but in season 9 she learns he is still alive, using an assumed name. When she journeys to find him, she discovers that he has changed a lot, including being unable to engage in sexual relations on account of his injuries, and realizes that trying to continue their relationship is pointless. She divorces him and finds a new beau, Jonesy, marrying him in the second reunion movie, Mother's Day on Walton's Mountain. During their honeymoon, she has an accident and is told she cannot have more children, but by the fourth reunion movie, she has had 2 more, Clay and Katie, by Jonesy (who does not appear). In the "Walton Thanksgiving Reunion," set in 1963, Mary Ellen is called a "war widow," indicating that the storyline revolving around Curt's return from the dead is no longer canon and Curt is back to being killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Benjamin "Ben" Walton[edit]

Ben (Eric Scott) is named for his father John's brother Ben who was killed in World War I. Fourth-born Walton Ben seems to get into trouble at precisely the wrong times. He has an enterprising spirit but sometimes falls for get-rich-quick schemes and needs his father or John-Boy to bail him out. Even as an adult, running the sawmill in partnership with his father, he makes deals that don't turn out well. He elopes with pretty Cindy Brunson and they have two children, daughter Virginia (Ginny) and son Charles Benjamin (Charlie)--who was born in the second reunion movie. In Season 8, Ben joins the Seabees and is taken prisoner by the Japanese. At various times, Ben has run the mill with his father, Elizabeth's boyfriend Drew, and Paul Northridge.

One of the last 3 movies mentions that Ginny has drowned and that Ben and Cindy are considering adopting another child; Charlie is never mentioned.

Erin Esther Walton[edit]

Erin (Mary Elizabeth McDonough), the fifth-born and second daughter of Olivia Walton (née Daly) and John Walton Sr. She is very close to her older sister Mary Ellen, though they often fight. Erin is considered the pretty one in the family, not the scholar, and she falls in love many times throughout her teenage years. In the Season 5 episode "The Elopement," set in 1937, her age is given as 16, indicating she was born in 1921 (or late 1920). She works as a telephone operator early in season 5 while she's finishing high school. She struggles to find her place, as she is not as musical as Jason, not a scholar like John-Boy, and not interested in medicine like Mary Ellen. She takes a part-time job at a business college to buy a typewriter for John-Boy when the owner sees her answering and assisting callers at the unattended front desk. She is allowed to work her way through the business school and later becomes the Executive Secretary to a loudmouthed businessman; during the war she is the plant's executive manager. Almost all of her romances are ill-fated; the boy either dies or proves to have poor character. Eventually she meets and marries Paul Northridge and they have 3 children: Susan, Amanda, and Peter. In a reunion movie we are told that Paul was unfaithful and the couple have divorced. Erin has earned a teaching certificate, and by the final reunion movie she is a school principal.

James Robert "Jim-Bob" Walton[edit]

James Robert (David W. Harper), better known as Jim-Bob, is the youngest Walton boy. He and Joseph Zebulon were born on January 13, 1923 but only he survived.[5] Jim-Bob is the only Walton child who was born in a hospital, rather than at home. As a teenager, he passes his older brother Ben in height. He is particularly close to his younger sister Elizabeth. He is fascinated by airplanes and aspires to become a pilot; however, increasingly poor eyesight forces him to give up this dream. He eventually becomes a mechanic and opens his own business just opposite Ike's general store. Jim-Bob has several girlfriends throughout the series, including Ike and Corabeth's adopted daughter (and Elizabeth's friend and adoptive cousin) Aimee Godsey. Jim-Bob's birthdate is another example of timeline error in the series: Trying to enlist in the military after the Pearl Harbor attack, he's told that he's too young. If his birthdate was January 1923, he would have been going-on-19 in December 1941. Later he is shown graduating as valedictorian of the Class of 1944 in episode 188 "The Valedictorian". However, in the season 3 episode "The Runaway," he mentions that his birthdate is June 13, 1924.

Elizabeth Tyler Walton[edit]

Elizabeth (Kami Cotler) is the youngest child of John and Olivia Walton. She was born in fall 1927 and age 6 when the series began. She has her 13th birthday in season 7's Halloween episode. She is free-spirited and outspoken, but sensitive, and in later seasons she's shown to share John-Boy's love of reading and knack for writing. Her best friend is Aimee Godsey. As a teenager, Elizabeth often babysits her nieces and nephews. Later she travels in Europe; she joins the Peace Corps in one of the sequel movies. Tony Becker portrays her boyfriend Drew; in the final sequel movie, she and Drew get engaged.

Recurring characters[edit]

Ike Godsey[edit]

A close friend of the Walton family and second cousin-in-law of John Walton Sr., Isaac B. "Ike" Godsey[6] (Joe Conley) is the proprietor of the General Mercantile, the postmaster, and only garage mechanic in Walton's Mountain until teenage Jim-Bob Walton opens a garage near the Mercantile. He is a World War I veteran; he served alongside John Walton and Sheriff Bridges. During World War II, he serves as the town's Civil Defense warden. He offers the use of extra space in the Mercantile as a classroom when a fanatic burns down the schoolhouse. He eventually marries John's distant cousin Corabeth and they adopt a daughter, Aimee.

Mamie Baldwin[edit]

The older of the Baldwin sisters, a pair of relatively well-off elderly spinster Southern belles, Mamie (Helen Kleeb) is somewhat more sensible and grounded than her sister Emily. She and Emily carry on their father's legacy of making and distributing a product they refer to as "Papa's recipe" (or "the Recipe"), which they believe to be a harmless elixir and medicinal remedy, but which is in fact moonshine whiskey which they make using "Papa's machine" (a still). All the residents of Walton's Mountain are aware of the true nature of the recipe, but rarely discuss it with the sisters. Olivia and Grandma Walton, being devout tee-totaler Baptists, disapprove of the sisters' production of alcohol and generally try to discourage the family's association with them early in the series. However in later seasons the Baldwin sisters become dear family friends, even taking in Jason following a devastating fire at the Walton's home. In one episode later in the series Grandma Walton teaches one of the girls how to bake and lets on that her secret to it tasting so good was using some of 'the recipe' in the cake mix. Prohibition has been repealed early in Roosevelt's presidency, and though the operation of an unlicensed still (as well as the selling of untaxed alcohol) is technically illegal, Sheriff Bridges considers the ladies' activities generally harmless as long as no one tries to sell the "recipe" (which a couple of their unscrupulous relatives try to do). Most of the other citizens of Walton's Mountain are quite fond of the Baldwin sisters.

Emily Baldwin[edit]

Emily Baldwin (Mary Jackson) is the slightly more eccentric Baldwin Sister. As a young girl, she was in love with handsome Ashley Longworth, until he disappeared. This was due to her father's interference, of which Emily was unaware until her sixties. Though she has never heard from Ashley for some fifty years, she is convinced that he will someday return to her. In season 7, Ashley's son Ashley Jr. (Jonathan Frakes), shows up in Walton's Mountain with news that his father is dead. Ashley Jr. starts a romance with Erin Walton, to Emily's delight, but reveals that, on account of his wartime experiences, is an atheist, and Erin, on the advice of her mother, Olivia, breaks off the relationship. He returns after Erin is involved with Paul Northridge, creating a love triangle, and forcing Erin to choose between two suitors. (Erin ends up choosing Paul Northridge.)

Rev. Matthew Fordwick[edit]

First appearing early in the first season (The Sinner), Rev. Matthew Fordwick (John Ritter) comes to the community fresh from Baptist seminary trained as a hardline Biblical legalist, until he accidentally gets himself drunk at a visit with the Baldwin sisters, who happen to be his distant cousins. This humbling experience causes him to adopt a more forgiving nature, and he serves as the pastor of the local Baptist church through season 5. He marries the schoolteacher, Rosemary Hunter, in season 4.

Rosemary Hunter Fordwick[edit]

Miss Hunter (Mariclare Costello) is Walton's Mountain's schoolteacher, teaching all ages from first grade through high school. As such, she teaches nearly all the county's children, including all of the Waltons. She is one of the first people to encourage John-Boy to pursue his writing, suggesting he submit his essays to various competitions, and helping him prepare for college. She later marries Rev. Matthew Fordwick. Together, they have a daughter named Mary Margret after Mary Ellen.

Corabeth Walton Godsey[edit]

In season 3, John's second cousin Corabeth Walton (Ronnie Claire Edwards) arrives in Walton's Mountain after her mother's death. After years of caring for her invalid parents, Corabeth is nervous and shy and has retreated into a shell. Olivia and Esther encourage her and build her self-estem so she can express her interest in storekeeper/family friend Ike Godsey. They eventually marry and adopt a daughter, Aimee Louise. Whether they marry out of love or mutual loneliess is explored throughout the series. Marriage and motherhood cause Corabeth to flower into an eccentric, self-refined aspiring socialite--and the town busybody. She deals with several private battles: alcoholism, depression, temptation to infidelity, and her intense longing to forever abandon the rural backwater for a more cultured, cosmopolitan life. In later seasons she dresses in a flamboyant, urban manner with trendy hairstyles and bold dresses and suits, out of place with the Walton women and the conservative rural area. She is innovative, and improves the yard goods and millinery departments at Godsey's store. Humorously, she always addresses her husband as "Mr. Godsey" except for intimate private moments. Despite her desire to live someplace other than Walton's Mountain, Corabeth does seem to genuinely like and care for the Walton family. She regards Olivia as a friend, and attempts to help Jim-Bob with his studies, encouraging him to follow his dreams. Later in the series she becomes a real-estate agent for the area.

Verdie Grant Foster[edit]

Verdie Grant (Lynn Hamilton) is a middle-aged African-American widow, with two adult sons and three daughters, the youngest of whom, Claire, is graduating from college in Richmond. She has been illiterate most of her life, a fact which her fierce pride and mistrust based on bad experience with a white-dominated society has caused her to hide. But she decides to ask John-Boy to secretly teach her to read and write. After resolution of a misunderstanding caused by Elizabeth unknowingly revealing her secret to Miss Hunter, she completes her lessons and becomes a close friend of the Waltons, appearing in a total of 17 episodes. During later seasons, she marries Harley Foster (Hal Williams), an itinerant laborer (who it is later revealed was on the run trying to avoid conviction for a murder which he had not committed) and becomes stepmother to Harley's young son.

Sheriff Ep Bridges[edit]

Marmaduke Ephram "Ep" Bridges (John Crawford) is the Jefferson County sheriff, keeper of the peace in Walton's Mountain. He appeared in forty episodes, starting in the very first.[7] He, like John Walton and Ike Godsey, is a veteran of World War I, serving in the 2nd Infantry Division. After the war he married but became widowed, and has two grown sons. Though he is unquestionably the best man in the county for the sheriff's job, he needs the help of John-Boy's investigative journalism to survive a re-election threat from a charismatic, well-connected politician looking to use the office as a stepping stone to the state legislature. He refuses to discuss his war service until John-Boy researches an "Honor Day" celebration and discovers Ep was decorated for valor with the Medal of Honor, the French Croix de Guerre, and several others for destroying an enemy machine gun nest with a grenade, wounding himself in the process. He was haunted by the deaths he caused.[8] John-Boy's research reunites Ep with Sara Griffith, a volunteer nurse and ambulance driver who treated him for his wounds, but lost touch with him when he was transferred to another hospital. Not long after the reunion, Ep and Sara marry. Sheriff Bridges makes his last appearance in the second-to-last series episode, The Hostage (Season 9, Episode 20).

Sara Griffith Bridges[edit]

Sara Griffith (Lynn Carlin) is a Red Cross nurse working in the state capital, to whom John-Boy turns to research Ep Bridges' World War I service. It happens that she served in World War I, and is personally familiar with Ep's service because she treated him after he was wounded. They started a courting relationship, but lost touch when Ep was transferred to another hospital. Sarah visits Walton's Mountain to find Ep, and soon relocates there. After a bit of matchmaking by Olivia and John, Ep proposes and they marry. Her war experience as an ambulance driver gave her a knowledge of how to fix cars, which earns her Jim-Bob's adoration. She, along with Olivia and Corabeth, serves the Baptist church as part of a committee appointed to find a replacement for Reverend Fordwick.\

Maude Gormley[edit]

Maude (Merie Earle) was an elderly woman who resided on Waltons Mountain. A talented folk artist, she discovered an artistic talent late in life, and began painting local scenes on pieces of plywood (which were later displayed and sold in Ike's store). Though a bit of a schemer, she nonetheless enjoyed a warm friendship with the Walton family, particularly Esther, whom she'd known for many decades.

Other characters[edit]

Benjamin ("Uncle" Ben) Walton[edit]

Uncle Ben Walton was the red-haired, idea-filled older son of Zebulon Tyler Walton and Esther Walton (née Morgan). He is mentioned in The Awakening (Season 2, Episode 15) which three children are mentioned, and The Hero (Season 5, Episode 18) when Ben made a memorial bench for Uncle Ben for Honor Day.

Uncle Ben was much like his nephew, John's son. They both have red hair, they are both filled with ideas, their handwriting is similar, etc. Uncle Ben got along with John the same way that Ben gets along with John-boy.

Frances Daly[edit]

Frances is Olivia's sister, who lives in Edgemont. She has a daughter, Olivia, whose husband dies in "The Loss." She is mentioned in "The Heritage" (Season 2, Episode 18).

Olivia Hill[edit]

Olivia Hill is the niece of Olivia and John Walton (daughter of Olivia's sister Francis), and first cousin of John-Boy, Jason, Mary Ellen, Ben, Erin, Jim-Bob, Joseph, and Elizabeth; she is the wife of Bob Hill, whom she marries on the mountain in "The Shivaree" episode. She returns to Walton's Mountain following her husband's sudden death.

Martha Corinne Walton[edit]

Martha Corinne, the widow of Zeb's older brother, Henry Walton, first appears in the two-part season 3 episode "The Conflict", in which she and her family are displaced from their land on the mountain by construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Though she initially refuses to leave, when John-Boy is wounded in an armed standoff between members of the Walton clan and government officials, Martha Corinne agrees to reloate to a newly construted house provided by the government. She appears in two more episodes, including season 5's "The Pony Cart" (which won an Emmy for portrayer Beulah Bondi in 1977).

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Fire, Season one, episode 16
  2. ^ TV Guide Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. p. 536. ISBN 0-7607-5634-1. 
  3. ^ The Sinner, season 1
  4. ^ The Baptism, season 5
  5. ^ The Secret, season 4
  6. ^ The Celebration, season 6, episode 13
  7. ^ The Foundling, season 1, episode 1
  8. ^ The Hero, season 5, episode 18

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]